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Navy Pier will implement a temporary Pier-wide closure starting Tuesday, September 8 in an effort to limit the financial burden and impact of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the organization. The closure will put a halt to all Pier-wide operations, including that of Navy Pier’s more than 70 small local businesses, which have also experienced significantly low attendance throughout the pandemic. Public access to the Pier’s outdoor spaces, including Polk Bros Park and North and South Docks, will also be limited or prohibited during the closure.
“While this was a very difficult decision for the organization, it was a necessary one to proactively ensure the long-term success of one of Chicago’s most treasured and important civic institutions and the communities it serves,” said Navy Pier President and CEO Marilynn Gardner. “This decision will also help preserve the future of the many on-site businesses, which continue to face hardships of their own as a result of the pandemic. The temporary closure will allow the Pier and its partners to reduce its operational expenses and support efforts to limit COVID-19 cases as we move into the fall and winter seasons.”
To date, the Centennial Wheel and other Pier Park attractions—a primary source of revenue—have not been able to open and operate. On-site cultural anchors, Chicago Children’s Museum and Chicago Shakespeare Theater, have also remained closed. Additionally, the Pier has extended rent relief to all of its on-site tenant partners. All private events, consumer shows, trade shows and banquets have been canceled in the Pier’s East End event facilities due to capacity restrictions. Furthermore, COVID-19 travel restrictions have resulted in significant decreases in tourism, another contributing factor to decreased attendance and revenues.
Navy Pier relies heavily on these sources of revenue. The loss of these earnings has been devastating to the organization’s budget, resulting in a projected deficit of $20 million in 2020. Navy Pier’s short-term closure will help limit further losses for the organization, as well as the businesses that are housed at the Pier.
Navy Pier has operated as an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization since 2011. Although the organization maintains facilities on publicly-owned property, the Pier does not receive any public tax dollars to support its operating costs. It depends on generous philanthropic support from individuals, foundations and corporations with the majority of revenues earned through operational income, such as rent and fees from on-site business establishments, private events, consumer and trade shows, parking and ticket sales from attractions—all of which have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Navy Pier anticipates reopening in spring of 2021.
Navy Pier initially closed to the public on March 16 due to state-wide orders related to COVID-19. Since reopening on June 10 and resuming partial operations, the organization has seen less than 20 percent of its typical summer attendance, making it difficult to generate revenues to support standard operations. Given that Navy Pier is entirely supported by operating revenue and philanthropic donations, the decline in attendance and corresponding loss of revenue renders normal operations unsustainable during this period.
To date, the Centennial Wheel and other Pier Park attractions—primary sources of revenue—have not been able to open and operate. On-site cultural anchors, Chicago Children’s Museum and Chicago Shakespeare Theater, have also remain closed. Furthermore, restrictive capacity limitations for restaurants, events, banquets and conventions have prevented the Pier from resuming full operations and offering full experiences to guests.
Navy Pier anticipates on re-opening in the spring of 2021, pending the status of the pandemic.
Navy Pier will continue to implement cost reductions, including adjustments to staffing and/or employee work schedules, as well as changes to services provided by outside contractors. The timing and announcement of these adjustments will be based upon the financial status and needs of the organization.
Navy Pier continues to have open discussions with various government officials and agencies, including the City of Chicago, State of Illinois and the US Government. The Pier has also shared its situation with elected officials in the Illinois House and Illinois Senate, along with the Illinois Congressional Delegation.
As Navy Pier operations are entirely supported by operating revenue and philanthropic donations, this loss of attendance and corresponding loss of revenue renders normal operations unsustainable during this period of time. Unlike many of our cultural partners in the City of Chicago on publicly-owned land, Navy Pier does not receive financial support for operations from the City or State. Navy Pier’s 2019 budget breakdown is as follows: 27% of revenues generated from tenant partners, 23% of revenues generated from Pier Park attractions, 20% of revenues generated from parking, 13% of revenues generated from private events, 11% of revenues generated from corporate sponsorships and philanthropic support, and 6% of revenues from miscellaneous activity.
As the top tourism destination in the Midwest, Navy Pier and its partners employ nearly 3,000 individuals. Guests spend nearly $200 million annually at Navy Pier and spend an additional $150+ million in the immediate vicinity of Navy Pier. Guest spending on-site generated $7.30M in combined State taxes ($4.48M Sales, $1.82M Income, $1M Corp Profit) and off-site generated $5.66M in combined State taxes ($3.48M Sales, $1.40 Income, $.78M Corp Profit). Navy Pier capital expenditures generated $2.31M in combined State taxes.
The Pier is using its cash reserves to fund the current deficit.
Navy Pier generated about $60M in 2019. In 2020, the organization projects a $20M deficit.
Vendor business agreements vary with each agreement, both in terms of length and financial arrangements.
Spring of 2021, pending the status of the pandemic at that time.
During the temporary closure, Navy Pier will not be accepting any event or space bookings.
Events will be re-scheduled for 2021 and/or when the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago move to Phase 5.
WBEZ will be open during normal business hours. Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and the Chicago Children’s Museum have been closed to the public since mid-March and will remain closed until further notice. For further information regarding future operations, please visit their respective websites.
Navy Pier will finalize details in the coming weeks and provide partners with appropriate information to access their respective office spaces during the Pier’s closure.
Since Navy Pier’s reopening in 1995, the Pier has temporarily closed on three occasions. It was closed for two days in 2016 during the installation of the Centennial Wheel; two days in 2019 during the Polar Vortex; and from March 16 to June 10, 2020 due to State and City COVID-19 orders.
Guests will have limited access to Polk Bros Park. Access to the North and South Docks will be prohibited.
No, access to the North and South Docks will be prohibited during the temporary closure.
Construction of the hotel is still ongoing. Once construction is completed, Navy Pier will work with the developer to announce an opening date of the property.
Any changes to businesses and partners operating at Navy Pier will be announced prior to the Pier’s reopening in the spring of 2021.
As a result of the temporary closure, Winter WonderFest will be canceled in 2020.
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